Former Employer is Giving Bad References

Posted by Sessions & Kimball |

Employee Rights Attorney

Mission Viejo, California

Q: “I recently completed a one year assignment as a contractor with a large company. I left under what I believed to be favorable circumstances.

“I recently became aware that the project manager at the company has been giving extremely negative information about me to prospective clients. I did not list this person as a reference, but prospective employers and headhunters call her when I list the project on my resume. One of my associates, posing as a headhunter, called and was given a very bad recommendation on me.

“Do I have any recourse? It is difficult to refuse disclosing where I worked, and if I do, I am effectively unemployable. I have been out of work for several months, largely I believe, because of the ergative information supplied by this former manager.”

A: “It is illegal for a company to give false information on former employees to a prospective employer. In fact, an employer who does so could face a criminal violation and triple damages.

“Employers can make truthful statements about a former employee, but whether these statements are true or false can be very subjective.

“Since many employers could face a protracted and expensive lawsuit if they give out negative information, many employers only provide the name, job title and dates of employment.

“If you are concerned about the information being given by your former employer, consider writing a letter to the company or the person giving the bad reference, advise them of their potential liability to you and request that they limit their remarks about you in the future.

“You could also tell them that you will monitor their references in the future with other prospective employers or friends. Since they will not be able to determine who is a prospective employer or informant for you, the warning is usually enough for them to change their practices.

“Have someone call them later to check if they have really changed. If they haven’t, see a lawyer. Keep in mind that you still would have to prove that what they said about you was not truthful.”